Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oyster Gardening - Month Seven: “Oysters on Ice”

Beczak Environmental Education Center, located on the Yonkers riverfront, is part of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program. In June 2009, six hundred “seed” oysters from Baykeepers’ Governors Island site were resettled in a floating cage hung off a piling in the Hudson River behind Beczak. Fifty of the oysters are in a sample study and kept in a separate cage. Educator Vicky Garufi checks them monthly to report back to NY/NJ Baykeeper. Watch this blog for her updates.

What happens to oysters when the water temperature drops and the river freezes? Do oysters hibernate like some mammals? Do they migrate like some fishes and birds?

I was very excited to participate in the oyster restoration project with NY/NJ Baykeeper but I was the first to admit that I was no oyster expert. For instance, I really didn’t know how oysters survived the winter.

I did some research before our last cold snap and, to my surprise; I learned that oysters could tolerate freezing water but not freezing air. When the water temperature drops below 32 degrees and the river becomes covered in ice, oysters temporarily stop growing. They survive in their tough shells and then continue growing when the ice thaws and the water temperatures rise.

Because our oysters are in a cage that hangs from a piling—not resting on the river floor like they would be in the wild—I needed to make sure they were secured and fully submerged at the lowest tides during the winter.

Right now at Beczak the oysters and I are in hibernation. I have stopped recording and submitting the data for the winter season. I will continue in March when the water temperature is slightly warmer and more tolerable for me to enter the river and pull the cage out. Be sure to check in on their status!

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education and Outreach

Find out more about Beczak’s oyster gardening program. Click on these links below.

Month One: The oysters arrive
Month Three: Oyster Check-up
Month Four: Students Observe the Oysters

NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program
Beczak begins oyster gardening press release
“Moving Back Home” Hudson Valley Magazine

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ice, Ice and Away

January 12, 2010

Last winter I remember when it was so cold that the entire width of the Hudson River was frozen. I watched as boats had to cut the ice as they traveled north.

It hasn’t been that cold yet this winter, and the ice is not continuous from the east to west shorelines. But there is a lot of ice traveling.
I’ve been pulled to Beczak’s marsh, mesmerized by the view of ice traveling up and down the river. Slowly it travels north, but when it travels south man does it travel. A huge piece of ice, probably 6 feet in length, looked like it was traveling at the speed of a jet ski. How cool would it be to surf on that ice!

Dorene Sukup

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Tidal Marsh Meditation

I am the newest member of Beczak’s education department. I applied for a position here because I was interested in hands-on environmental education, but I did not know much about the Center apart from what I read at its website.

My first days at work were spent inside and at schools. It was not until I went down to the beach looking for water chestnuts that I realized just how serene and special Beczak’s marsh and the waterfront are.

I was standing at the marsh’s edge when it hit me that I was listening to birdcalls and waves crashing and very little of anything else. Maybe it was just the time of day that I was out there, or just a freak occurrence that no planes, boats or trains were passing by, but I realized I had never experienced more serenity anywhere in Yonkers than at Beczak’s riverfront. I glanced across the water to the Palisades and looked as far up and down the river as I could. A sense of peace and well-being enveloped me.

I have lived in Yonkers for about six years now and have heard all sorts of rumors about the dangers that lurk in downtown Yonkers. I have even been warned of working in the polluted Hudson River in such an urban environment. However at that moment, looking out at the water and the surrounding non-developed land, I was thrilled to be right there, right then. I was impressed with the transformation of the river from the polluted waters it once was to the crisp, enjoyable scene that lay before me. It is heartening that amidst all the development there could be such a place as our tidal marsh where people can enjoy and learn about this amazing river.

This experience opened my eyes to the joys of Beczak, the tranquility of the Hudson River and the promise that Yonkers holds. If a river of this magnitude could change so dramatically at the insistence of a small group of people, imagine what could happen to the city of Yonkers with the increasing influence of Beczak and its community of river-lovers. This is one more transformation I cannot wait to be a part of.

Susan Juggernauth